Over the past few weeks, we have had a busy time representing people with alopecia at a number of medical conferences.
Firstly our Chair of Trustees, Jackie Tomlinson, attended the Facial Aesthetic Conference and Exhibition (FACE) from the 4th-7th June and the QEII Centre in London. The event is the UK’s premier aesthetic conference and new to 2015 was a Hair Agenda chaired by Dr Bessam Farjo. It was a great opportunity to update the aesthetic community of new updates for their continuing professional development. Jackie, who is also a member of the European Hair Research Society was asked to kick things off for the Hair Agenda with an informative discussion about alopecia areata. Jackie focused on the psychosocial elements of living with a skin disease, looking at quality of life data and how the aesthetic community can help an individual manage their altered appearance. Jackie says, “It was a fantastic opportunity to educate and raise awareness within the medical aesthetic community.”
Next up was the British Dermatology Nursing Group’s (BDNG) conference at the Harrogate International Centre from 16th-18th June. For this one Jackie was joined by Alopecia UK’s Communications Manager, Amy Johnson. Along with other patient support groups, Alopecia UK had a stand full of information for the dermatology nurses to take away. Amy had created an awareness display with a ‘Wild-West’ theme of ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. Using actual feedback quotes about dermatology services received from people with hair loss, Amy grouped them into ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ to demonstrate the differences in the levels of care those with alopecia can experience. We had also produced a ‘How You Can Help’ guide with ten tips of how dermatology professionals can help those with alopecia. This was displayed as part of the poster but also given out as a take home handout, hopefully helping to educate healthcare professionals on the needs of those with alopecia. From the many interactions we had with dermatology nurses, a common theme to come out of chats was the struggles many nurses are facing in accessing wigs for their patients (or the possibility of wig policies changing within their departments as further cuts are made). This is something that Alopecia UK is seeking to address in the coming months ahead.
Finally, Jackie and Amy took their ‘Wild West’ stand to the Manchester Central Convention Complex for the annual meeting of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) from 7th-9th July. We were lucky to have a great position right at the entrance of the venue, alongside the fabulous ladies from The Ichthyosis Support Group. Some dermatologists told us that they do struggle to know how to help their alopecia patients and were grateful for the information we were able to give them. The conference included a large number of sessions on ‘psychodermatology’ and we certainly hope that this is an area that the NHS will start to invest in the years ahead. Jackie and Amy both attended the gala dinner which was a perfect chance to ‘let their hair down’ and a highlight for them was listening to Dr Vicky Joliffe play the violin whilst welcome drinks were served. Dr Joliffe is a Consultant Dermatologist who has a specialist interest in alopecia. She has also raised over £2,000 for Alopecia UK by playing all four parts of a musical quartet (very talented!). You find out more from her Justgiving page. Further excitement was provided by Professor Angela Christiano who provided an update about the current trials taking place in the USA into JAK inhibitors in the treatment of alopecia areata. The results so far are very promising but now the team is working on creating a topical application from the drugs. There is still a way to go but very exciting to hear about the progress being made (Jackie is pictured with Professor Angela Christiano).
Attending conferences can be very exhausting. Staying away from home, lugging huge cases/boxes, setting up, dismantling and talking (all day!). However, knowing that we have increased awareness of the psychological impact of hair loss and provided medical professionals with advice on how they should be treating their alopecia patients makes it all worthwhile.
There is one final medical conference for Alopecia UK to attend. Amy, along with Alopecia UK’s Charity Manager Jen Chambers, will be heading up to Glasgow in October to attend the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) conference. Alopecia UK’s first attendance at a large GP event.